Episode 46: “A Fabulous Conversation About Marketing”

This week, we introduce Stephanie Stuckey, a new regular on the podcast who tells Dana White and Laura Zander about the iconic road stop business her grandfather founded: when it peaked, what went wrong, why she bought it back, and how she plans to rejuvenate it. Along the way, we discuss whether small businesses should outsource their marketing, how hard it is to find an agency that really listens, and what it should cost to hire a marketing firm. Plus: Stephanie offers a tutorial on how to engage followers—and get free consulting—on LinkedIn.

Episode 46: “A Fabulous Conversation About Marketing”

Guests:

Stephanie Stuckey is CEO of Stuckey’s Corporation.

Laura Zander is co-founder and CEO of Jimmy Beans Wool.

Dana White is founder and CEO of Paralee Boyd hair salons.

Producer:

Jess Thoubboron is founder of Blank Word Productions.

Episode Highlights:

Laura Zander: “I will offer as much advice as you would like in exchange for pecan rolls. I’m just throwing it out there.”

Dana White: “I’ve been open for eight years. I’m not happy with the growth, COVID aside. It’s time to bite the bullet, invest the money.”

Stephanie Stuckey: “There’s really not a lot of marketing firms out there that cater to small businesses.”

Stephanie Stuckey: “I try when I share things not to just hit the share button, but to have a teaser to say, ‘We had a fabulous discussion about marketing.’”

Full Episode Transcript:

Loren Feldman:
Welcome Dana and Laura, and our newest regular on The 21 Hats Podcast team, Stephanie Stuckey. Great to have you here, Stephanie.

Stephanie Stuckey:
Thanks for having me.

Loren Feldman:
Our pleasure. Let’s start with you, Stephanie. You’re the granddaughter of the founder of the Stuckey’s road stop business, a brand and a business that is remembered fondly by so many people, even though it fell on hard times after your family sold it. But you bought the business back in 2019. Why don’t you start by telling us: what kind of shape was it in when you bought it?

Stephanie Stuckey:
Not good.

Loren Feldman:
Tell us more!

Stephanie Stuckey:
Stuckey’s had been losing money consistently since 2016 when I purchased the company, and we were in the red. What I bought was something that you could not see on the books, and I think that is what took a family member to appreciate and understand the value of the brand. I bought a brand. I didn’t buy an asset that was really worth a lot.

Loren Feldman:
People think of the road stop locations. What were the assets that you did, in fact, buy?

Stephanie Stuckey:
Yeah, and just some background, because I think there’s a certain era that really remembers Stuckey’s, and it would have been people who maybe in the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, early 80’s would road trip and pull over and see our stores. That’s what we are best known for. We had roadside locations. At our peak, we had 368 stores in almost 40 states. We were known for our products. Specifically, we started as the pecan stand on the side of the road. So to this day, we continue to be known for pecan-based products.

Laura Zander:
Can I just interrupt real quick and say you are now my new best friend for pronouncing that word correctly?

Stephanie Stuckey:
Yeah, right?!

Laura Zander:
Everybody is like “puh-cahn, puh-cahn.” I’m like, “It’s pea-can.” We even asked Google, and Google thinks it’s “puh-cahn.” I am so stoked that you’re here and that you are on my side. I used to go to Stuckey’s all the time, and that’s where I learned how to say it the right way.

Stephanie Stuckey:
My grandfather would say, “Pea-cans when you pick them; puh-cahns when you sell them.” It was however the seller would want to pronounce them, and he sold pecans to the Northerners a lot—he would say “Yankees.”

So what assets were there? We had 67 locations. None of them are company-owned. They’re all independently franchised operations. Only 20 of those are standalone stores. The remainder will be what we call Stuckey’s Express, or store-within-a-store. You’ll see a co-branded Stuckey’s section. For example, we’re in a few pilot locations. Just like you would see a Dunkin’s or a Subway, you might see a Stuckey’s mini-section.

We had 20 standalone stores, 47 stores-within-a-store, 67 franchise locations that were paying a monthly franchise fee. We had a distribution center in Eastman, Georgia. We had three sales reps. We had a skeleton crew that had been running the company for a decade since my dad’s retirement, so the main team was a vice president and a CFO and three sales reps. Those are some of the assets that I purchased.

Loren Feldman:
That’s like five employees you’re talking about.

Stephanie Stuckey:
We have two people [who] run the warehouse, and we have three pickers—warehouse pickers—and a couple seasonal workers. So really, a round number: 10. Small.

Loren Feldman:
You sell lots of snacks—pea-can snacks. Did I get that right?

Stephanie Stuckey:
Yes, and we’ve been outsourcing our product for decades. That’s something I think a lot of companies don’t talk about. But many well-known brands, they don’t actually manufacture their product in-house. They outsource that. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a quality product and it’s not made to their specifications, using their recipes, etc., living up to their standards. But that is kind of a secret of many products, that they don’t self-produce. Having said that, we’re in the process of acquiring our manufacturing capacity, so we’re going to change that around. But I didn’t acquire any manufacturing at the time.

Laura Zander:
I’m curious. When was the peak? When was it doing the best that it was doing? I mean, that’s a huge drop, right?

Stephanie Stuckey:
Good question. Quite a few things happened. The peak, I would say, is the mid-1970’s. My grandfather sold the company in 1964, right before I was born, and he remained involved with the company and was head of the Stuckey’s division of the company that bought Stuckey’s for about 10 years. And then the CEO that brought my grandfather on died unexpectedly of a heart attack. My grandfather was pushed out. Then that company got bought out by another company. Then people were driving the roads less because there was an Arab oil embargo. Then the Airline Deregulation Act passed, and people were flying more because flying was affordable. External and internal factors that all combined, that had us on this rapid trajectory of going downhill. That’s 80 years of history in a few minutes, right?

Loren Feldman:
Stephanie, you don’t really have a background doing this kind of thing. You’ve had an interesting career. Tell us quickly about your background and how this feels to you, taking over a business as CEO.

Stephanie Stuckey:
Had I not been given this opportunity to buy the company from my dad’s former partners, who were actively selling, I would never have stepped up to the plate and been a CEO. I would have never thought I had the capacity to do that. But when you look back on your life’s experiences, and think about the skills that you gain throughout the different careers you may have had or the different positions that can help inform a new career, even if it’s doing something different.

They’re similar skill-sets, and the number one skill-set I would stress is what Warren Buffett always talks about, which is emotional intelligence. That only comes with maturity and being able to handle very stressful situations in a way that’s even-keeled. So much of being a successful entrepreneur or a business leader or leader in life is being able to effectively manage interpersonal relationships. I’d say that’s easily half of what I do every day, is making sure that the team is working together well and we’re maximizing each other’s skill-sets.

For my background, I’m a lawyer by training. I practiced law for many years. I was a litigator, I was a criminal defense trial lawyer. I was in the Georgia State Legislature. I had a career in public service for 14 years. I headed up an environmental non-profit for three years and then I got tapped as head of sustainability for the city of Atlanta by Mayor Kasim Reed. I was doing that and then I left. I was heading up sustainability for a non-profit based in Atlanta and teaching as an adjunct at the University of Georgia School of Law, when I had this career move to take over my family’s business.

Laura Zander:
And you think that your resume is not impressive enough? Are you kidding me? [Laughter]

Stephanie Stuckey:
I didn’t think I could be a CEO! I mean, I was in the non-profit space, right?

Laura Zander:
Yeah, but it’s just three letters. You can put any three letters behind your name if you want to, if you own the company.

Stephanie Stuckey:
Right, if you own the company, by the way, you can make yourself CEO.

Laura Zander:
Exactly.

Dana White:
Yeah, exactly.

Stephanie Stuckey:
I’m going to change my title to chief candymaker soon.

Laura Zander:
Perfect. I love it. Pea-can maker.

Stephanie Stuckey:
That’s the title I want.

Dana White:
For me, I was a labor relations specialist. I’m not a hairstylist. And I think you’re spot-on when you say a lot of it has to do with your emotional maturity. I’ve worked in the Middle East. I’ve worked in New York City. The skill-set to be able to talk to people, to be able to work with workers, understanding what they need and how to support them, you can translate that to anything. I too had a brief stint in politics.

Stephanie Stuckey:
Oh, really?

Dana White:
I was in a presidential campaign years and years and years ago. But that rallying the troops, that getting everybody on the same page, that being consistent with your message—that all translates in business to culture, vision, processes, order. I don’t have an engineering background, so the fact that I’m drawn to this Lean manufacturing business is new, but even my experience being a waitress has helped me develop this brand. My question for you, Stephanie, is: You said the 70’s was the peak?

Stephanie Stuckey:
Yeah.

Dana White:
At what point did Stuckey’s not evolve? What happened in Stuckey’s that didn’t keep up with the changes?

Stephanie Stuckey:
They lost a visionary founder, and I know I’m biased about that, because he was my grandfather, but it plays out looking at the history and talking to non-family members about what happened. He was involved with the company even after he sold it, like I said, as head of the Stuckey’s division of the company that bought Stuckey’s. It’s based out of St. Louis, and part of their portfolio at the time was Whitman’s Chocolate Samplers. Definitely had an aligned brand in their portfolio and it really was a good fit.

The new CEO was in finance and did not understand a brand. He didn’t understand marketing and he certainly didn’t get what was special about Stuckey’s, that we were a road trip experience. We weren’t just selling a product and we weren’t just numbers on a book. My grandfather was ousted, and then that company got bought out by a Chicago railroad conglomerate, and at that point, it just became a rapid downward slide.

Dana White:
I think that’s important. Business owners are always trying to keep their head above water, and a lot of us right now just barely have our noses above water. I’m fortunate. My mouth is above water. My chin is a little under the surface. Yes, it’s a money-making opportunity, but you really need somebody who’s in line with the vision.

Laura Zander:
Our largest competitor just sold and announced it two days ago. They just got a buyer, and the buyer was the second largest competitor, which is VC-funded. They’ve raised—I don’t know—50 or 60 million bucks. There’s no heart and soul to the VC-funded company, so we’re just waiting for them to exit. They’ve been acquiring all these kinds of assets and small businesses within the yarn industry over the last two years or three years.

My little tribe of local yarn shop owners have all been discussing, “What does this mean that our competitor sold?” And it was a second-generation business, and it’s been around for 45 years. And we’re like, “Well, there goes the heart and soul.” They’ll stick around probably for a year—that’s what I’m assuming the contract is—and then all of those sales are going to end up being distributed across the rest of us. So for us, it’s actually a really good thing, because we’re assuming that it’s going to follow that same kind of trajectory that you just explained, and that you just experienced, because there’s no heart and soul. There’s no drive.

Loren Feldman:
Do you know why they sold?

Laura Zander:
I don’t know, specifically. I’m going to assume… they’re a little bit older. They’re probably 10-15 years older than Doug and I are. Probably just tired and ready to retire and be done. And it goes back to like, what do you do about succession planning? It’s really making us look—or me look—inward. Can I do this until I’m 60, 70? You know, not all of us are Jay Goltz, and not all of us necessarily want to do this for the rest of our lives. So what do you do? How do you not lose the soul? Or do you care? Do you just end up shutting it down? Like, where does it go?

Stephanie Stuckey:
That’s a good question, because I think so often people feel this stress—especially if you’re in a family business, like me. I’m 3G, or third-generation. There’s this pressure: It has to go to the fourth generation. But—and I’m not suggesting this for Stuckey’s—sometimes I think it’s okay just to say, “It ends here. It’s been a great business. We had a great run. We’re shutting it down.” And how much better would it be to close in a very decisive way, instead of having them die this slow and pathetic death? You drive by and see these shuttered Stuckey’s stores that are now porn shops.

Dana White:
Oh, wow.

Stephanie Stuckey:
Which is the reality for some of our old stores. If it hadn’t gotten back in the family business, that’s how it would have died.

Laura Zander:
Oh my God. Talk about the polar opposite.

Loren Feldman:
Stephanie, are you comfortable telling us what this investment in Stuckey’s means to you? I mean, if you’re comfortable sharing what you paid for it, we’d be interested to hear that, but what I’m really interested in is: Are you putting your heart and soul into this? What does it mean to you to turn this business around?

Stephanie Stuckey:
It’s very personal to me. It’s my name up there on those billboards, and on those stores and on the candy label. I do have a really strong emotional connection to this brand, and it’s more than just my personal experiences with it. It’s what I know it’s capable of. That whole experience of taking to the open road, which I think is such an American experience, because we have this country that is huge with highways that connect us. There’s this wanderlust in all of us, and Stuckey’s is part of something so much bigger than just me. It’s getting excited about making pecan log rolls. It’s getting in your car. It’s exploring backroads. It’s going to the alligator petting zoos—or maybe not petting…

Laura Zander:
Yes, no. I took Huck to one!

Stephanie Stuckey:
It’s Goofy Golf, and South of the Border, and Wall Drug that is so uniquely American. You don’t see places like that anywhere else in the world, and it’s everyone’s vacation. You don’t have to have a lot of money to get in your car and experience these things, and Stuckey’s is part of that. We fill a unique niche.

Laura Zander:
One hundred percent.

Stephanie Stuckey:
And Stuckey’s got away from offering that. We’ve lost that magic because we were out of family hands, and I’m trying to get it back to that. My father, he did a great job. He saved the brand. Had he not taken it on, it would have gone under, but he was also running five other companies at that point. He made Stuckey’s part of his portfolio to keep it going, but he didn’t really have the… he doesn’t have the same vision I do for the company. Having said that, he’s still very much alive and supports what I’m doing and the direction I’m going in.

My vision for the company is getting it back to this unique experience. I’m working right now on getting photo booths in the stores that would be branded Stuckey’s—the old-timey photo booths where the reels come out, but you can also get a digital version of your photo, too—I’m working on bringing back that sense of having a fun experience when you pull over, and it’s not just getting gas and using the restroom and getting a bag of Cheetos. It’s having a unique experience that relates to the place where you are. And I’m not telling how much I bought it for. Sorry.

Loren Feldman:
That’s okay.

Stephanie Stuckey:
I think people might be shocked. I don’t know, they might think it was too low, or they might think it was too high. I negotiated down, I’ll say that.

Dana White:
I have to say, I know a little bit about Stuckey’s, and one of the things that’s sad but true is Stuckey’s had no segregated bathrooms on the road.

Stephanie Stuckey:
That’s right.

Dana White:
In a time where, in the South, bathrooms were segregated. You guys were in the Green Book.

Stephanie Stuckey:
We were in the Green Book.

Dana White:
Yup, you were in the Green Book. We could go to a Stuckey’s. So you know, I’m excited for you. I hear that you get it. Obviously, as a girl who has a personal connection to the brand, you just don’t want anybody to take it over. You were called to take it over and grow it, especially that wanderlust factor. Especially now, right? People aren’t getting on planes, and who knows when they’ll get back on planes the way they used to. I was listening to you, and I’m like, “Wow, such rich marketing material.”

Laura Zander:
Oh my God. I know.

Dana White:
And even with—I don’t know how your marketing team would feel about it—but even them touching on—

Stephanie Stuckey:
The marketing team! [laughter]

Dana White:
Stephanie, it could be you. I just hired a marketing team, and we could talk about that in another episode, but—

Loren Feldman:
Or we can talk about it in this one. I would like to hear Stephanie talk about her marketing plans and hear what you, Dana and Laura, think about it.

Dana White:
I’m listening to her, and there’s such a wealth of ways to reach so many customers to reconnect them with Stuckey’s. Not segregating their bathroom. In a time like this, showing who you are is who you’ve always been. That’s, wow… That phrase was $29.95. You can have that.

Laura Zander:
No kidding. That was a good one. That’s a T-shirt.

Loren Feldman:
Stephanie, one of the things that caught my eye is that your website, unlike most websites, has a guest book where people can leave their memories, what they’ve experienced with your brand through the years. How do you build on that? Do you have a marketing plan?

Stephanie Stuckey:
I do have a marketing plan. I wrote it myself, and I have had the benefit of a lot of freelancers who support me, but on a very limited basis. And I’ve had it vetted with others to get their feedback, but I have a marketing plan. I have a very small team—I guess I can say I have a marketing team. I have two graphic designers who I use freelance, and I have a wonderful guy who helps me draft some of the narratives that I e-blast. And then I have a young man who helps me post on Instagram, especially.

I’m very challenged with video content. I’m interested, Dana, Laura, if y’all use video, because that’s more of a challenge for me. I’m trying to figure that out. But the marketing team is just me coordinating freelancers on an hourly basis. I just hired someone to help me structure a Pinterest site and get that up and running as well.

Laura Zander:
I will offer as much advice as you would like in exchange for pecan rolls. I’m just throwing it out there. I’ll be on your board, and I’ll drive. As long as there’s food there during the day, I’d be stoked. And maybe a T-shirt.

Stephanie Stuckey:
Excellent.

Dana White:
I’ve been open eight years, and I’ve done so much with doing very little marketing. And so this year, I’ve decided to make an investment into marketing. I literally just had a meeting with the firm that I’m going to bring on to do all the marketing outside of graphic design. I too freelance for graphic design, someone I’ve been working with starting in 2020. I’m a nervous wreck. I’m a nervous wreck because I’m feeling like the investment is trying, even though with the little marketing I’ve done, we have some idea of what works. But this is a huge investment for me and I want to make sure that the money I put in, I get back.

I’ve talked to some of their other clients. I’ve talked to a friend of mine who’s a soon-to-be-client and a friend of mine who’s already a client of theirs. They came highly recommended. My challenge with finding a marketing team through an agency of record is, I’m a different kind of business. People want to box me. And the second you do that, I’m losing—

Loren Feldman:
What do you mean, Dana, that you’re a different kind of business? What about your business are you referring to?

Dana White:
Most marketing firms that I interview want to make me a salon. I’m getting ready to cut a check, and you’re still talking about appointments. It’s so obvious—I’m walk-in only. I was in a meeting: “So Dana, if I come and make an appointment…” I’m like, “You can’t make an appointment.” “Oh, right, it’s Sunday. You’re closed today.” No, we’re seven-days-a-week.

Laura Zander:
They don’t listen.

Dana White:
They’re not listening, and so then a lot of their marketing ideas for me were appointment-based. If you’d even done any homework—which I know they have—if you paid attention to the website, if you had done any homework, you’d realize that you have to approach Paralee Boyd a little differently and listen to the owner when she tells you how to market to the people she wants to be her customers. And they’re like, “Well, no, maybe we should market to these people…”

Loren Feldman:
How do you respond to that, Dana? Do you correct them? Or do you head for the exit?

Dana White:
I correct and head. I correct them and I leave, right? I’m a little nervous. I think they’re beyond qualified. They’re going to do a great job. But the proof is in the pudding. And when do I pivot? When do I say, “Okay, I’ve put in enough money. It’s not coming back.” I like their ideas thus far. We’ve done a little bit of marketing that’s data-driven. I’ve given them the results so we kind of see what works. But I’m nervous as I’m getting ready to cut this check every month. Oh my goodness…

Stephanie Stuckey:
I can totally relate to that.

Laura Zander:
How big is the check?

Dana White:
The check is $50,000.

Laura Zander:
[Gasp]

Stephanie Stuckey:
Yeah, that’s consistent with quotes I’ve gotten. And the quote I’ve gotten is, “What if I just hired you to do several months’ worth of work and really help put a good structure in place for us?” And the quotes I’ve been getting for that have been $40,000. I’ve gotten quotes for $100,000. You will see charges like that. I think, quite often, maybe they think we have more money than we do, or we’re willing to spend money we don’t have. Or maybe large corporations pay a lot of money and so they’re used to that. There’s really not a lot of marketing firms out there that cater to small businesses.

Dana White:
I’m so excited that you said that. That was part of my selection criteria. I said this in our very first meeting with every marketing person: “Don’t give me a proposal based on who you think I am. Give me a proposal based on what I need. Give me a proposal that says, ‘I want to be in a relationship with Paralee Boyd and Dana White, and in five years, I want to be her agency of record.’” If you give me a quote that says X amount of dollars, then I’m saying, “You don’t want to be in a relationship with me. And I finally found a marketing firm that gets it, that’s comfortable marketing to my market, that gets Paralee Boyd. I’m excited to see it, but it’s still $50,000 for the year. It’s still a lot of money.

Loren Feldman:
What did they promise you for that $50,000?

Dana White:
I’ve spoken with a customer of theirs who said, “These are the returns on the investment that I’ve gotten, and this is what I’ve reinvested in them, and I don’t look back.” They have promised me a lot in their statements of work—something that they’ve already started to do: “Dana, this is what we’re going to do.”

And they’re smart. They shouldn’t promise me an ROI of such and such and such and such. No. What they promised me is to deliver and work hard, and that’s all I can ask for, to an extent. Six months in at $24,000 and nobody’s coming in the door? Okay, let’s talk.

Laura Zander:
Do you even have metrics for number of impressions and number of products?

Dana White:
Yep. All of that.

Laura Zander:
Okay, you do. Can I ask, at 50 grand for the year, obviously, you thought about, “I could just hire one person, and they would do this full-time for me who was in-house and who lives and breathes the brand and isn’t doing anything else.” Why choose an agency, as opposed to having a full-time employee?

Dana White:
Their network. Who they could call and negotiate a rate with at a radio station. The individuals who I had looked at wanted to work with Paralee Boyd. They over-promised. There were questions that I was asking that they hadn’t had the answers to. It was obvious that I had thought more about this than they had.

I’m at a point—especially because of this show—where I’m done hand-holding. I’ve been open for eight years. I’m not happy with the growth, COVID aside. It’s time to bite the bullet, invest the money. That’s why I hired the operations manager, and that’s why I chose a firm.

Stephanie Stuckey:
The challenge also with hiring in-house is, obviously, all the expenses associated with that. A $50,000 salary is not just $50,000. You have to provide health insurance. You have to pay Social Security. You have to pay taxes. It gets very expensive very fast, so the actual cost to the company would be more than $50,000. Most people coming out of college, I’m amazed at the salaries that they expect. I wish that there were more firms that would cater to a smaller startup and provide really boutique services. But the firms I found—even the smaller ones that I thought would offer more reasonable rates—are quoting me six figures.

Dana White:
Mm mm. No.

Stephanie Stuckey:
And that’s when I come in, saying, “I can’t afford six figures.”

Dana White:
Exactly. I can’t.

Stephanie Stuckey:
I’m nowhere near there. There is such need out there for marketing with smaller firms, where if you could pick up a 10k-20k client, and you could pick up 10 of those clients and provide good quality work—and have somewhat of a gig economy model where you’re utilizing some workforce that you can coordinate their services—I think there’s a model there. It’s beyond my capacity, because I’m not a marketing guru.

What I do know is the Stuckey’s brand, and so I know how to message the Stuckey’s brand, which is what I’m doing. But there’s a need out there. The other thing with the firm is all the software, right? There’s a lot of software and equipment.

Dana White:
I also chose a firm, to answer your question, because of where I intend to go, and I didn’t want to outgrow someone who can’t market for me in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and do product as well.

Loren Feldman:
Laura, Stephanie had asked about video, and you asked about doing this work in-house. You kind of built Jimmy Beans Wool by doing your own marketing. A lot of it was creating videos showing your customers what they could do with your yarn. That was some time back. Do you think that model still works? Is that still possible?

Laura Zander:
I think it’s probably more possible and more relevant now than it’s ever been. In fact, that’s what our focus is going to be for 2021: in-house, low production value. Especially in our industry, and I would venture that the Stuckey’s brand is a little similar and that their customers—

Loren Feldman:
How so?

Laura Zander:
You’re talking about a kind of working class road trip, Americana. I would assume—and Stephanie, please correct me—people are put off by corporate America. They’re put off by shiny objects. You want it to be real and a little down and dirty and a little flawed, because otherwise you just look at it and you feel like crap about yourself. So, anyway…

Stephanie Stuckey:
That makes sense.

Laura Zander:
I get the capacity thing. And that makes sense to me, Dana—in terms of, if you’re doing ad buys, and that’s a big part of your strategy, that totally makes sense to have somebody outside. It also happens that I really enjoy marketing, and that is an area of learning that I am digging into that just excites me. But it sounds—Stephanie—to me like you’re the same way and that you’ve got a brand. And that’s what we have always focused on.

We’re not as focused on creating non-appointment walk-ins or foot traffic. We have been focused less on direct ROI stuff and more brand-building, getting the word out there, causing some noise, creating some noise, and in some ways, kind of just saturating the market so that people in our industry—in your example, if they’re going to go on a road trip, there’s no way they can’t know about Stuckey’s, because you pop up everywhere.

Dana White:
But aren’t I doing the same thing, though? When I’m listening to you, I’m like, “No, Laura, I want to do that, too.” Right? I want women to say to themselves, “If I have to get my hair done today, I’m going to Paralee Boyd.”

Laura Zander:
Yeah, I am going to venture… I would think that hair is just slightly different, in that you do want your hair to be perfect.

Dana White:
It’s not touching everybody. I have a niche market.

Laura Zander:
You do have a niche, and I mean, yes, we want the pecan roll to be perfect. I don’t want to get salmonella or get sick because of something. So there’s that on the food. And yes, I want my yarn to be good. But when it comes to beauty, beauty needs to be clean, in my mind. I don’t want to see a down-and-dirty salon ad.

I want to know that the tools are clean. I want to know that when I come out of there, my hair is gonna look like frickin’… I don’t know, somebody amazing. Lady Gaga. I would say that, in your situation, you might need it to be a little cleaner, and you might need it to be a little more professional and slick than Stephanie and I.

But again, that’s just my gut kind of intuition as a consumer. I think Stephanie could—and I know you know this, and you’re obviously very intelligent and super way more accomplished than I’ll ever be…

Stephanie Stuckey:
Doubt it!

Loren Feldman:
Stephanie, you’ll learn that Laura’s always talking down her business, despite having a very successful, impressive business.

Laura Zander:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. If I were doing that well, I wouldn’t be so stressed out all the time. Stephanie, if you need a succession plan—and I’m serious, like board of directors, whatever—you have such a freaking goldmine. And I know, you know this, and that’s why you made this move…

Loren Feldman:
She has a huge following on LinkedIn, to that point.

Laura Zander:
My gosh, like the Americana, the nostalgia. I’m reading Ready Player One with my son right now, and it’s all about the 80’s and going back, and we’re trying to capture this innocence. You’ve got my generation. I’m 46, and I grew up going to Stuckey’s. That was the highlight of the trip—didn’t matter where you went. And to be able to capture that…

Stephanie Stuckey:
It’s been fun. And it’s a great point, Loren, about LinkedIn. When I first started, I was posting on LinkedIn once a week. I was posting on Facebook daily, Twitter daily, Instagram daily. I quickly learned that LinkedIn is where I’m having the most interaction, and for me interaction is not just a thumbs up.

Loren Feldman:
That’s so surprising. I don’t think of LinkedIn that way. How do you explain that?

Dana White:
Oh, no, that’s you. Sorry, if I can just interject, my marketing team is all over LinkedIn. FYI: they said, “Dana, that’s a huge market for you.”

Stephanie Stuckey:
LinkedIn was the biggest surprise. I get so much engagement on LinkedIn. It’s the comments. And it’s not just “Well done” or “Kudos,” “I like that.” It’s “I really like this because…”

Today, for example, I can’t afford marketing research, so I’m deciding between two billboard designs, and I was really headset on one billboard design. And the owner of the store wants another billboard design. And I’m like, “All right, I’m just gonna put this up on LinkedIn. I’m going to ask people for their feedback, and everyone’s going to agree with me. And then I’m going to go show this to the store owner and say, ‘All right, see, I’m right.’”

Well, I posted it, I said, “I want your feedback.” I’ve already gotten a lot of feedback, and it’s been mixed. A lot of people like the way he likes the billboard. That’s just one example. But the feedback I’m getting is not just, “I like the top one.” It’s, “I like the top one because the logo stands out more.”

Laura Zander:
God, what a great way to grow this brand by having your community involved in all of these decisions.

Dana White:
This is exciting.

Stephanie Stuckey:
And I’m getting free consulting. Oh, this is my favorite: I put up display concepts. I’ve been working on this display. Because we’re so small, and we have limited budget, and we don’t own our own stores, part of my growth strategy is we get retail partners that sell our product, but they don’t pay us a franchise, like an Ace Hardware. So I’m working on these displays that look like a mini-Stuckey’s store with a blue roof and a little Stuckey’s sign. You get the experience of a road trip from the display, even though you may be at your local Ace Hardware store.

I got the inspiration for this display, shamelessly, from a Krispy Kreme display that I’d taken a photo of, and I showed it to this guy who makes displays. I was like, “This is my inspiration. Can you mock up something?” And so I had a prototype, and I put the prototype on LinkedIn. I said, “Can you all give me feedback? What do you think of this?” Got tons of great comments. This one guy messaged me and said, “I really like this. I have some valuable feedback. I’d love to have a phone call with you. It looks a lot like the display that I created for Krispy Kreme when I was their marketing director.” And he showed me a photo, and I was like, “Busted.” He’s now helping me, by the way.

Loren Feldman:
That’s great.

Stephanie Stuckey:
Yeah, at a very reasonable rate, because he said, “I love your brand.” He’s no longer working for Krispy Kreme. He just took time off for family reasons, and he’s like, “This is a fun project, I’m interested in helping you,” and he’s amazing. And I found that through LinkedIn—through a LinkedIn comment. I didn’t even say I was hiring.

Laura Zander:
Do you enjoy building these displays and designing or helping design and lead the billboard? Is this fun for you?

Stephanie Stuckey:
Well, I’m doing it more out of necessity. No, I don’t have the capacity to do all of this. Our exec team meetings are four people. We don’t necessarily have those layers of processes and structure that a big firm has. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need more structure and more processes. And so, there’s some learning that can really help inform how we run things at Stuckey’s.

We were a really big corporation at one point with a thousand employees, so I’ve been pulling through our archives and finding old materials and actually, some of our paperwork is pretty helpful in how Stuckey’s had been run, and some of it I’m saving. I’m like, “Okay, well, when we really grow the brand some more, I’m going to pull this old document out, and this is a good org chart for a hundred people.”

Loren Feldman:
I see a Stuckey’s museum coming, Stephanie.

Laura Zander:
Yeahhhh!

Dana White:
Oh, that would be outstanding. A Stuckey’s museum! Wow.

Stephanie Stuckey:
I collect a ton of Stuckey’s archival materials. I am the number one Stuckey’s buyer on eBay. I shouldn’t say what my eBay tag is. I think I’m outed. They definitely start raising the rates when I’m bidding. But I’ve collected a ton of stuff, and I live in a duplex. Half of my house I rent out on Airbnb, and I’ve Stuckeyed it up, and it’s full of Stuckey’s memorabilia. I actually advertise it as “Take a Stuckey’s stop.” Every room has Stuckeye’s stuff on the wall, Stuckey’s pillows, Stuckeye’s old candy boxes decorating the shelves.

Loren Feldman:
You need a museum.

Dana White:
Yeah, that would be outstanding.

Stephanie Stuckey:
It fills up a two-bedroom house right now—a two-bedroom, two-bath house with old Stuckey’s signs and paintings filling the entire place.

Loren Feldman:
Guys, this has been great. I have a feeling we could talk all day, but I gotta let you go. I have one last question: Will each of you commit to sharing this podcast [episode] when I publish it on Tuesday on LinkedIn?

Dana White:
Absolutely.

Dana White:
I’d be more than happy to share with my 100 followers. [Laughter]

Stephanie Stuckey:
Exactly, but that brings two more followers. And the other thing is, I try when I share things not to just hit the share button, but to have a teaser to say, “We had a fabulous discussion about marketing today.” Or, “We talked about how important it is to network and look at these resources.” Or, “What’s a reasonable budget for a marketing firm? And what should you take into account when you’re looking to hire a marketing firm, if you’re a small business?”

Loren Feldman:
I’m writing it all down. My thanks to Stephanie Stuckey, Dana White, and Laura Zander. As always, thank you all for sharing. This was great.